Windows are one of your home's most important features. Not only do they allow ambient light in—something that can help you save money on both heating and lighting—but they also make your home cheerier and more comfortable to be in. Window replacement is, unfortunately, just a fact of life for most homeowners, especially if your home is more than a decade old, so why not turn this part of life into a positive experience? Replacing your windows gives your home an instant facelift, but if you choose the right windows, you may also increase your home's market value and save money on your energy bills. In this article, you'll discover how both energy-efficient windows and large-scale windows can both provide direct benefits to your home, either in marketability or in efficiency savings over time.

Energy-Efficient Windows

Energy-efficient or thermal windows are a must for anyone living in a climate with temperature extremes. Whether you rely on air conditioning to keep you cool or a furnace to keep you warm, newer energy-efficient windows provide better insulation and less emissivity to help you save money on your HVAC bill each month. 

There are three primary technologies that classify a window as "energy-efficient":

Each of these offers a unique benefit but may or may not be combined with the others depending on the brand.

Double- and triple-paned windows provide better insulation simply by creating multiple barriers between you and the outside world. In the case of gas-filled windows, non-toxic gasses like argon are injected between the interior panes. Because argon is heavier than air, it acts like a barrier against everything from heat transfer to sound and even the sun's harmful rays. Conversely, low-E windows have a specialized coating that filters both UVB and infrared light, and this lets less heat in and less light out from inside.

Very often, newer windows feature all three technologies in the same window for maximum efficiency. This is ideal and is what you should aim for when purchasing new windows. 

Installing new energy-efficient windows is a major investment, but it's one that can pay off repeatedly over the years. In fact, the U.S. government's Energy-Star program estimates that you may be able to save $111 to $465 per year on your energy bill just by replacing traditional windows. If your main goal is to create a greener house for the next person, this is an excellent solution that will increase the value of your home at a lower price point than most large-scale windows. 

In fact, some experts estimate that getting new vinyl windows may increase your home's overall value of more than $8,000.

Large-Scale Windows

If you have the room for them, window walls and other large-scale windows are an excellent upgrade to your home. This includes bay windows and picture windows as well. All of these open up a room significantly, making it feel larger than it actually is while allowing natural light to filter inside. If you happen to have a home on a beautiful vista, with an excellent view of the sea, or even an empty wall facing the road and driveway, a large picture window will also increase curb appeal and become a very persuasive selling point, mostly due to simple aesthetics.

Simply put, large windows are nice to look at.

In the case of bay windows, you may even find you can squeeze an extra foot or two of room space out of your home just with the window ledge itself. A window ledge can be the perfect cozy nook for reading or dreaming the day away or a place to tuck a line of books for relaxing afternoons reading. This provides additional value directly in a house that may otherwise be short on space or intimate in size. Every bit of space you can squeeze out helps.

If you're concerned about efficiency with a larger-style window, understand that the risk of efficiency or heat loss is likely to be very minor. Just like other new windows, large window walls and picture windows are available in energy-efficient options with argon gas fills, low-E coatings, or double and triple panes, so there's no need to sacrifice the first goal to achieve the second.

Even though some people do notice a small loss in cooling capability with large-scale windows during the day simply from the additional sunlight that comes inside, using blackout curtains and ensuring that your windows are properly sealed and installed will ameliorate most of this risk.

But just where should you put large picture windows and window walls? The answer depends a lot on your lifestyle, with a few exceptions.

Never place a picture window in a bedroom unless you plan to use blackout drapes once it is installed; the excessive light these windows allow in can be distracting and may cause poor sleep. A living room or entryway is the perfect installation location if you have the space, since these tend to be light-poor areas with few windows to begin with.

If you've decided to upgrade your windows, congratulations! You're not alone; thousands of people successfully upgrade their windows in the United States each and every year. With traditional aluminum windows needing replacement approximately every 15 to 20 years, even if cared for properly, this is just a fact of life for homeowners. Fortunately, you don't have to make these decisions alone or without help; there are professionals available to provide one-on-one customized assistance. Contact a window-replacement professional for a one-on-one assessment of your home. He or she can work with you to identify the best options for your budget and your unique sense of style.